Thursday, March 19, 2009

Racin' Dirty!

Here is a surprise for my blog readers:

Cindirelli is racing tomorrow at Turfway Park.

Here is the entry:

Turfway Park - March 20th, 2009 - Race 1
Estimated Local Post Time: 5:30 PM
Race Type: Claiming
Breed: Thoroughbred
Age Restriction: Three Year Old and Upward
Sex: Fillies and Mares
Purse: $7,600
Distance: One Mile
Surface: All Weather Track
Post Horse
Age Sex Weight
Odds Claiming Price
Include the Lady (KY)
Alberto Pusac
Billy D. Allen, et al.
4 Filly 118
Billy D. Allen
Brereton C. Jones
5/2 $7,500
Runnin Dirty (FL)
Dean Mernagh
Shirley Ann Kimball
5 Mare 118
Tres J. Delaforce
Pennston Farms Inc.
15/1 $7,500
Drew'sgetleagle (KY)
Leandro R. Goncalves
DJC Stable (Rolanda Simpson)
4 Filly 118
Rolanda Simpson
John D. Murphy
3/1 $7,500
Lil Miss Blurr (KY)
Rodney A. Prescott
Mike Clark
6 Mare 118
Helmut S. Jackson
Equus Farm
10/1 $7,500
Chasing Liberty (IN)
Jose Luis Calo
Edward L. Roettinger
6 Mare 118
Danny D. Lang
Ron Dafler
7/2 $7,500
Hollywood Beauty (KY)
John McKee
Bernard G. Schaeffer
4 Filly 115
William R. Connelly
Benjamin W. Berger
2/1 $7,500

This is another one of those nerve wrecking moments for me- I won't get much sleep tonight, so I've already helped myself to plenty of Benadryl.

It's only a 6 horse field. This is a good thing. We drew the 2 hole, which is also a good thing because according to a little research the horse in the 1 hole never breaks well, giving our girl direct access to the rail. Cindirelli likes to go to the front - I know, I know, another one of those! But, we shall see how things go.
She is in great shape for a race. She's sound and ready.
She's actually so ready that since her last work on Monday, every time I tack her up to go to the track just to train, she gets so excited, she starts a-shaking and a-jumping, pressing against me, being impatient. Subsequently, on the track, she fights Cowboy all the way through her exercise with shaking her head, which he has a firm hold of, to try and get loose so she can run full tilt again (which she isn't supposed to).

I know once I hand her off to the pony heading to the gate, my usual mantra will probably pop back out of my mouth without my realizing it and it is my first and foremost concern, always:

"Safe and sound, safe and sound, safe and sound..."

If this girl still has the physical ability to race, she'll do very well.

We are, as usual, the long shot in the race.

Dean Mernagh - her jockey is a good jockey with riding experience in Hong Kong (or was it Japan?) and Dubai. He's been trying to get his foot in the door over here this year and I've been watching him. He listens to instructions and every time I have seen him on a horse, the horse performed better than expected.

Me? I'll be a nervous wreck, of course. Probably a good idea for me to take a 5th of vodka with me for calming purposes. No point in having her come in the winner's circle and the trainer is in the ambulance with a heart attack.

Race goes off at 5:30 pm EST, should be on either racing channel- HRTV or TVG.

Pray for us tonight- so our girl will have a safe and successful race.

May the racing gods be with us tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I meant to post this days ago. But I was pooped.
The last few days have been bone wearing. The weather improved a great deal, we actually had a near record high of 80 degrees yesterday. Today we are back to a high in the 40's and the low tonight is freezing.

There are 7 (yes, seven) horses in my barn at this point. Only 5 of them are "mine". The other two belong to a friend who was in a bind and decided to deposit them next to my horses so that I could help him out. Helping out.. well, don't get me started. Food for another post.

Of the five I have, 1.5 are mine. Doodle, of course, is my boy. The other 0.5 is actually not REALLY half mine but the arrangement I have with her owner is a 50/50 split.

Loopy (Trickle Me Good) was turned out for a long sabbatical due to a stress fracture in her pelvis, which I, unfortunately, claimed her with from another trainer. Oh joy.

So Loopy went home to her new mom and dad for a while. She led the life of leisure.
Loopy came back last Thursday.

When I claimed this filly, she was a total nut. A sort of dangerous total nut. My brother in law, who gallops for me when he is in KY, had helped me out that day I claimed her. Since she was such a nut, after we got her bathed, walked and put away, he closed the stall door, shook his head and while walking away, mumbled "Loopy".

It stuck. Loopy she was from that moment on.

It didn't take much for the Loopster to realize she didn't have to be a nut around us. It only took a couple of weeks before she completely changed her ways. Just today, when I went to get her from the swing stall, I forgot to bring the shank or even a leadrope with me. I was too lazy to want to walk all the way back to the tackroom, so I thought, what the hell- I can just grab her by the halter and we should be fine.
And she was. Just fine. No fuss, no fight. She's a good girl.

Since Loopy arrived looking like a Yeti (she had close to 3 inch long fur on certain parts, the rest was a good inch plus), the first time I bathed her after she started back to training, it took forever to bathe her. After the bath I noticed she was covered in lice from head to toe.

Course this sent the shudders up and
down my spine and first thing I did was to call Shawn the clipper guy.
We set an appointment for Loopy to get a new coiffure.

In the meantime, we endured laughing comments like:
"Oh, look over there- that is one lousy horse!" (All meant in good fun and bringing us lots of laughs around the barn.)

While I'm inserting the photos of her Yeti look, it's hard to tell from those just how long her fur really was.

And, it really was FUR.

This is not a coat.

Far from it.

I don't think I have ever seen a horse with fur like this, and I have seen some serious long winter growth.

She looked more like a Bakshir Curly than a Thoroughbred!

Shawn ended up not having to tie her for most of the clip-

one look at the clippers and a big sigh escaped from Loopy- "Oh thank GAWD, yes, pleeeeeeeez do your thing to me!!!"

Since the lice where also intricately woven into her mane and I really cannot even fathom trying to control that highly contagious population with another 4 horses I intimately handle every day, I told Shawn to roach her mane, as well. Course, this means, she is going to have to race with a neck strap- no mane- nothing to grab for the jockey if he needs to. Not a very big deal, but these things do happen.

So, the nekked Loopster, who now looks like a huge chunk of very milky chocolate with sprinkles of very dark chocolate across parts of her body, is feeling a whole lot better and no longer having to sweat like a stuck pig when she goes to the track. Matter of fact, she hasn't sweat, not ONCE, even in training since the body clip.

Bringing a horse back into racing shape is fairly easy, especially when you have a horse that has already run in the not too far away past. Jogging. Lots and lots of jogging to begin with.
We started this girl back with 1.5 miles and after the coat came off, she has been jogging 2 miles daily. Tomorrow, she's going to bump up to 2.5 miles.

I had the privilege to photograph the Canta-Loopy yesterday on her way to the track. The photos are in sequence. See for yourself what she thought of that.......

"Ooooh, the track... how exciting......"

"I think I better get rid off some ......."

"...of this stuff ....... ummmmpphhhh...."

" we go, just a little more....."

"Tadaaaahhh! Look at that! Just for you. Did you get all that on camera?"

Never mind that Loopy looks more like a Roman Warrior Steed with that roached mane and close body clip. Classy? Yes! Too classy for poop slinging? Never!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Transmission Problems!

The gears in a car aren't all that different from the gears in a racehorse.
You've got the lower gears, which are naturally slower. Then you've got the higher gears which, hopefully smoothly, accelerate speeds all the way through overdrive and double overdrive.

Cindirelli had her first official work yesterday (March 5, 2009).

Horse nameRunnin Dirty
Activity typeWorkout
Activity date03-05-2009
TrackGlenwood Training Center
Distance3 Furlongs
Workout typeBreezing
Workout time0:38.60
Track conditionFast

With a fused ankle and plenty of opposite hoof support via wedge and raised shoes, I've attempted to help make her movements smoother and easier.

Did it work? I certainly hoped so. While her prior, at the time, untended, injuries have obvious forever effects that will always be visible, the thought and hope was that they would nonetheless not be a hindrance to her talents.

The Amazing Filly went out to the track for the first time since her arrival and rehab, to be allowed to go fast. Her own personal stretch of Autobahn awaited.

Armed with my stopwatch, I walked up to the track, frantically yelling at cowboy to tell me where we were starting off from and stopping. My heart was pounding with a ferocity I hadn't experienced since the first time I took a horse to the paddock for a race. In the back of my conscious mind, little voices were chanting not in tandem with what should have been a focus on only positive thinking. The ever present worry to keep my charges safe, in some instances, from themselves was overpowering in a way I didn't think was coherently possible at this point.

Don was out on the track harrowing the inside lanes. Being one of Cindirelli's biggest fans, this wonderful old gent has consistently been a witness to her progresses and triumphs.
The training center was pretty much deserted at this point, save for a handful of people in my close circle I consider everyday friends.

I walked up to the gap where Don had pulled the tractor, my throat dry and parched, my blood pressure surely going through the roof. While I looked up to the tractor's cab with Don seated inside, he simply smiled down on me and winked- a small but reassuring gesture, that still failed to calm the storm within my being.

My hands were shaking in the 60 degree late afternoon as I watched my "problem child" warm up with a jog and then a half mile gallop. She's not perfect. She has an awful way of going in certain instances.

Memories of Cowboy's comments over the last months coming back with her from the track and thundering on about the cripple she is, the arguments in contention never ending between us until I methodically proved to him my knowledge about her soundness, or lack thereof, was solid and correct, rushed through me.
The ugly, nagging voice of doubt that every human, no matter how positive, has within them reared its head and a terrifying thought that this work may make her or quite literally, break her, resulted in my near dizziness with fear for her safety.

No, it's not normal for most trainers to feel this way. But then, I'm not most trainers. If, God forbid, one of my horses were to ever break down on the track, I would undoubtedly be the fool human running through rails and masses of people to get to my charge- praying at a high pitched scream "God please let her be ok, please let her be ok".
The heart break involved with going through such a tragedy isn't something I ever want to have to confront or endure.

Cindirelli gallops her warm-up, obviously not liking staying on her right lead, she keeps switching back to the left. An anomaly, truly, considering that the way she feels on the left lead is hard and rough- it is, after all, her "funky" leg. One would think that it should be easier for her to be on her left lead. For reasons unknown and not to be understood through scientific reasoning, she insist on doing things her way- in this case, choosing to lead with the very limb that had been so very traumatized in several places in her past.

As she approaches the quarter pole, Cowboy asks her for speed.
Watching this process is quite entertaining- she perks up and immediately throws her ears back and forth. The expression is one of unsureness- are you asking I go faster? Really? Is this a trick?
For all this time, she was never asked for speed such as this to constitute a work. Far from it, she has tried on numerous occasions to run off and fly, all to no avail and much to her chagrine.

This is different. Really? Speed? He asks again.

The girl takes off like a bat out of hell. Her rear lowers and her front stretches- it's the proverbial greyhound hunching its back, reaching under itself to propel itself forward to catch the rail rabbit. It takes only a second for her to accelerate and once she is in stride- on the far side of the track, with the rail and infield obstructing my view to watch for gait fluidity, I think to myself- did I start the watch?? A quick glance confirms that, indeed, my finger hit that button and the clock is running.

Coming up on the far turn, Don and I both look like tennis spectators, our heads following her progress in unison and coming through that turn, I realize I am chanting breathlessly, my mouth dry and voice raspy, over and over and over, a steady and desperate mantra I hope shoots straight up to the heavenly gardens of the Man in Charge: "Safe and sound, safe and sound, safe and sound, safe and sound...."

The most amazingly smooth galloping horse is tearing around the turn now coming into the stretch - her fluidity of movement unrivalled by the majority of horses that frequent our training surface daily.

Who is this horse???? Is it possible? How can this be? There is not a single wrong step, not a single out of tune move, she glides over the deep ground as her body reminds of an aerodynamically designed missile, shooting forward ever faster and smoother. If there is a perfect synch to her existence, this moment is it. Gone are the worrisome unwieldy movements that intersperse her daily gallops and jogs, THIS is a different horse. THIS is a Goddess in her element. THIS is what she was meant to do and the Higher Powers saw fit to leave her with just this very talent, unimpeded, uninterrupted, fully intact and completely functional in a perfect string of fluidity and grace, THIS, her birthright.

I realize my mouth is open and I am still chanting, a croak now caused by the drying air into my lungs. I hit the stopwatch at 3F and glance down- 39 and change- a rock solid performace for our surface that has bullets at 38.

She gallops out to 5 furlongs, jogs down, turns around and jogs back with the same grace and fluidity evidenced in her work, her ears pricked, her head high and proud and even from this distance, I can see the utter happiness in her expression.

I look up at Don in the tractor's cab and his grin goes from ear to ear, the smile completely encompassing his face and the look in his eyes rivaling mine with pride and utter joy at having witnessed this amazing moment that lasted for less than 40 seconds, yet seemed to justify a lifetime.

"Oh, Honey, she looked amazing! She looked so good!" And he winks at me.

I run back to the barn to get ready her bath buckets and finish up her stall. I'm giddy with excitement and utterly stunned at what just transpired.

Moments later, I hear Cowboy riding back into the barn, quiet and not a song on lips (unheard of!). I blabber something incoherent, wanting to hear his response, his opinion, the final verdict from the guy I trust enough to put on my horses since I can no longer do the job myself.

"Holy Shit, girl. THIS is the BEST friggin horse in your barn!"

Is it Christmas? Was this my birthday? Am I going to awaken and this was just a dream?

Cindirelli is mighty proud of herself and as it turns out, now quite full of herself, as I walk her around the shedrow to cool her down. She drinks not a single drop of water. She is jumping around happily at the end of the shank, coming past horses in their stalls and showing off to each and every one. We come back around to Piranha, her stall neighbor, his head is out and he is nickering at her encouragingly. My horses are all watching and nickering at her when we pass by. They KNOW. They are proud. They are tickled and happy. This is their homegirl and she just experienced a personal triumph.
Doodle and Spicey are both wide eyed and nodding their heads at her. Nickering softly.
I suspect it translates into something like: You go gurl!

The Amazing Cindirelli did it again. She blew me away, once again, surprising me and showing me to trust her, always always trust her because she knows what she is capable of.

The reassurance when these occasions arise is utterly simple and hard core in its statement:
Trust me! Stop worrying! Hear what I'm saying- I am my own best judge.

Her words.

As I get her through her bath, it dawns on me:

Transmission problems.

Cindirelli has transmission problems. Her lower gears are grindy here and there and will never again be like new. But those higher gears and overdrives, by God, they work like they are factory warrantied.

Who would have thought that racehorses can be so much like cars?

Runnin Dirty- early Fall 2008